Gates: Obama would veto defense authorization bill over F-35 engine

Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Thursday expressed confidence that President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaDick Cheney to attend fundraiser supporting Trump reelection: report Forget conventional wisdom — Bernie Sanders is electable 2020 Democrats fight to claim Obama's mantle on health care MORE would veto the defense authorization bill over a backup engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

Gates has repeatedly said, including in congressional testimony, that he would strongly recommend the president veto any defense bills that continue the development of the secondary F-35 engine, made by General Electric and Britain's Rolls Royce.

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"I obviously did not issue the statement that I did in my testimony on the Hill without talking with the president first," Gates said during a Pentagon conference Thursday. "I try not to climb too far out on a limb without knowing nobody is back there with a saw."

House defense authorizers on Wednesday greenlit another $485 million for the development of the GE-Rolls Royce engine that the Pentagon and White House do not want.

If the final House version of the 2011 defense authorization bill maintains the secondary engine funds it would be the first step in what is likely to be a months-long standoff between the Obama administration and Congress.

But Gates indicated that Obama would follow through on the veto recommendation.

"We will have to see at the time if the decision has to be made, but he [Obama] was fully aware that I was going to make that statement, and frankly I think that if he were not prepared to substantiate that he probably would have waved me off at the time," Gates said.

The House could take up the authorization bill as early as next week. The Senate Armed Services Committee has yet to write its version of the bill. Sen. Carl LevinCarl Milton LevinListen, learn and lead: Congressional newcomers should leave the extremist tactics at home House Democrats poised to set a dangerous precedent with president’s tax returns The Hill's 12:30 Report — Sponsored by Delta Air Lines — White House to 'temporarily reinstate' Acosta's press pass after judge issues order | Graham to take over Judiciary panel | Hand recount for Florida Senate race MORE (D-Mich.) strongly supports the second engine, but faces opposition from Sens. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainFighter pilot vs. astronaut match-up in Arizona could determine control of Senate The Hill's Morning Report — Recession fears climb and markets dive — now what? Trump makes rare trip to Clinton state, hoping to win back New Hampshire MORE (R-Ariz.), the ranking member, and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.). Pratt & Whitney, the primary engine-maker, is based in Lieberman's state and the company has lobbied for years to remain the sole engine-maker for the newest fighter jet.

Gates said on Thursday he was also very concerned about detailed conditions House defense authorizers placed on the F-35 program, which is designed to replace older fighter jets for the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps. Those "detailed conditions" would make the F-35 program "essentially unexecutable," Gates said.